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[gley-sher] /ˈgleɪ ʃər/
an extended mass of ice formed from snow falling and accumulating over the years and moving very slowly, either descending from high mountains, as in valley glaciers, or moving outward from centers of accumulation, as in continental glaciers.
Origin of glacier
1735-45; < dialectal French, derivative of Old French glace ice < Late Latin glacia (for Latin glaciēs)
Related forms
glaciered, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for glaciers
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Mountains and glaciers may bar our progress, objected Hatteras.

    The Field of Ice Jules Verne
  • Their lips are sealed; their eyes are cold as glaciers, and often they drink deep.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service
  • A strong wind with the flavor of glaciers was blowing straight from the pole.

    The Cold Snap Edward Bellamy
  • When the stars are out above the glaciers how serene the night is, how majestic!

  • They determined to go and explore one of these glaciers the next day.

    Rollo in Switzerland Jacob Abbott
British Dictionary definitions for glaciers


/ˈɡlæsɪə; ˈɡleɪs-/
a slowly moving mass of ice originating from an accumulation of snow. It can either spread out from a central mass (continental glacier) or descend from a high valley (alpine glacier)
Word Origin
C18: from French (Savoy dialect), from Old French glace ice, from Late Latin glacia, from Latin glaciēs ice
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for glaciers



1744, from French glacier, from Savoy dialect glacière "moving mass of ice," from Old French glace "ice," from Vulgar Latin glacia (cf. Old Provençal glassa, Italian ghiaccia), from Latin glacies (see glacial).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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glaciers in Science
A large mass of ice moving very slowly through a valley or spreading outward from a center. Glaciers form over many years from packed snow in areas where snow accumulates faster than it melts. A glacier is always moving, but when its forward edge melts faster than the ice behind it advances, the glacier as a whole shrinks backward.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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glaciers in Culture

glacier definition

A large mass of ice formed over many years that does not melt during the summer. Glaciers move slowly over an area of land such as a mountain valley.

Note: Glaciers exist in high mountains throughout the temperate zones and cover most of Antarctica. Glaciers recede during warm periods and can expand during cold periods, creating ice ages.
Note: A significant percentage of the water of the Earth is locked up in glaciers.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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